Home Live Review Live Review: Drive-By Truckers w/ Lydia Loveless @ 9:30 Club — 4/29/23

Live Review: Drive-By Truckers w/ Lydia Loveless @ 9:30 Club — 4/29/23

Live Review: Drive-By Truckers w/ Lydia Loveless @ 9:30 Club — 4/29/23
The Drive-By Truckers perform at 9:30 Club on April 29, 2023. (Photo by Steve Satzberg)

There’s no questioning the work ethic of the Drive-By Truckers: Every time I’ve seen them perform, they go hard, and, when they’re not under time constraints, they play a long show. And that was exactly what they did at a recent sold-out DC show, delivering 24 songs on the first of two nights at 9:30 Club, which founding member (and one of two principal songwriters) Patterson Hood described as one of their favorite venues to play.

The last time the Truckers had played the 9:30 Club was, as Patterson said, “leap year, February 29, 2020.” It feels like both yesterday and a lifetime ago. In those three years, the Truckers have released three albums, two in 2020 (The Unraveling and The New Ok) and last year’s Welcome To Club XIII. Explaining the title track of that one, Hood gave us some history about where he grew up, in Florence, Alabama, “across the river” from Muscle Shoals. (I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, but every time I go to write “Muscle Shoals,” my brain wants to write “Mussel Shoals,” which would, I think, be a very different sort of this place.) 

At 9:30 Club on April 29, Hood further explained how there were two more cities in that area, Sheffield and Tuscumbia, on the Muscle Shoals side of the river. These four cities were divided for reasons having to do with religion.

Muscle Shoals, of course, is known as a mecca of Southern soul music, being the headquarters of Fame Records, a place where artists like Aretha Franklin came to record. Hood is connected to this musical heritage: His father, bassist David Hood, played in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as the Swampers.

Because it was a dry county, people would go across the nearby state line to drink and party in the honky tonks in southern Tennessee. Eventually, the county allowed alcohol, and new clubs opened. The best of these, as Hood told the audience, was Club XIII. Displaying his trademark dry humor, he added, “They used roman numerals because they were classy.”

The Truckers’ set opened with two cuts from Club XIII, “Maria’s Awful Disclosures,” written by Mike Cooley (also a founding member and the other principal songwriter currently in the band), and Hood’s haunting “The Driver.” The set also included “Every Single Storied Flameout,” but it didn’t dwell overly on that record, instead taking the audience on a journey through their expansive catalog. The next song, “Zip City,” came from their breakthrough 2000 double album, Southern Rock Opera

Watch the official music video for “The Driver” by Drive-By Truckers on YouTube:

Several tracks from that album made their way into the set. “Dead, Drunk, and Naked,” Hood told the crowd, is about his friend, Evan, “a fantastic musician but a terrible pizza chef.” “Ronnie and Neil” gets into the relationship between two of their biggest influences, Ronnie Van Zandt, of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Neil Young. The set ended with two songs that ruminate on the Lynyrd Skynyrd 1977 plane crash that killed most of the band, “Shut Up And Get On The Plane” and “Angels and Fuselage.”

Many of my personal favorites made it into the set, like “Gravity’s Gone.” Toward the end of the evening, the Truckers covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Adam Raised a Cain.” It was fitting, as Bruce is also legendary for his endurance and the length of his shows. The evening’s other cover was an interlude of Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times” during “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy.” “Puttin’ People On The Moon” contrasted the ambitions of the space program with the meagerness of what we do for people’s basic needs. “Heathens”  lends its name to their annual celebration in Athens, Georgia — Heathen’s Homecoming. The set also included “3 Times Down,” “72 (This Highway’s Mean),” “Guitar Man Upstairs,” “Love Like This,” “Goode’s Field Road,” “Women Without Whiskey,” “Lookout Mountain,” “Steve McQueen,” and “Marry Me.”

Lydia Loveless opened the show. I’m a huge fan of her music, but this was my first time seeing her live. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Loveless grew up singing in a band with her family and released 2011’s critically acclaimed Indestructible Machine less than two weeks after her twenty-first birthday. She opened her set with the closing track from that album, “Crazy.” An incredibly gifted songwriter, especially for someone so young, she’s released three more much-loved albums, 2014’s Somewhere Else, 2016’s Real, and 2020’s Daughter. Her set included the title track from that last one, along with “Mile High” and “Toothache.” She played a few new songs, one of which she wrote on the tour bus with the Truckers. “Sex and Money” is about “going on tour and being sad.”

“Being sad” is a pretty big part of Loveless’s vibe. And that does it for me: my ex once said, “You listen to some of the saddest shit,” and I can’t disagree with that statement. Add in the mix of twang, garage rock, and punk in her sound, and you’re landing squarely in my zone. I truly love her music, and I loved this set — the songs were great, and they were delivered with just enough force to give them an edge without taking the emphasis off of the lyrics. As a complement to the Drive-By Truckers, it made perfect sense for her to open this show — there’s a definite overlap in what they do, but they’re distinct enough that it added another flavor to a tasty evening.

Here are some pictures of Lydia Loveless performing at 9:30 Club on April 29, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.

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And here are some photos of Drive-By Truckers performing at 9:30 Club on April 29. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.

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